Patience, emotional resilience and the ability to work well under pressure are just some of the traits needed to be a good midwife, find out what else you'll need to enter the profession
Becoming a midwife
As a midwife you'll be involved in the before, during and after of a birth. Midwives are often the main point of contact for an expectant mother, providing more than just assistance during labour and delivery. A midwife can perform gynaecological examinations, take antenatal classes and offer support and advice following events such as miscarriage and termination.
To become a midwife you'll need a combination of excellent scientific knowledge, a wealth of practical experience and a compassionate, caring nature. You'll also need to obtain a degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), to join the NMC register and become qualified to practise.
Full-time midwifery courses last three to four years, although if you're already working in a relevant role (such as in nursing) you may be able to take a part-time course lasting five to six years.
Starting salaries for midwives fall in Band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale. Your exact salary will vary based on your location and previous experience.
Throughout an undergraduate midwifery degree, your training will be split 50/50 between the classroom and work placements. You'll study a range of modules, which will vary across institutions and courses, covering topics such as:
- midwifery care in pregnancy and birth
- midwifery care following birth
- medicines management
- critical care and complex needs
- normal births, usually in the first year, followed by emergency births and high-risk pregnancies in the second and third years
- research-based modules.
You'll be assessed through a mixture of written exams, coursework and practical assessment.
Applications for full-time undergraduate midwifery courses are submitted through UCAS. Whether you can study part time is at the discretion of your institution, so arrange to discuss your circumstances with your chosen midwifery department before applying to see what's on offer.
Fees for undergraduate midwifery courses are set at £9,250 per year for 2021/22 entry at most UK universities.
As of September 2020 all undergraduate and postgraduate midwifery, nursing and other allied health profession students have access to a £5,000 maintenance grant that doesn't need to be paid back. This could increase to £8,000 if you meet some additional criteria. To find out more take a look at gov.uk.
Postgraduate midwifery conversion courses
Studying an undergraduate midwifery degree isn't your only way into the profession. Many midwives begin their careers as nurses, and some will have studied a degree in an unrelated discipline. It's possible to become a midwife through postgraduate study.
While postgraduate midwifery courses typically last three years full time, increasing to five to six years if taken part time, many universities will accept you onto an intensive midwife training course where you'll qualify in less than two years if you're already an NMC-registered nurse.
Postgraduate midwifery courses are offered at postgraduate certificate (PGCert), postgraduate diploma (PGDip) and Masters (MSc) level.
As a postgraduate student learning takes place with the undergraduate midwifery students. You'll focus on your development as a student at postgraduate level with your academic tutor.
Some institutions offer a PGDip for which you'll only need a 2:2 degree to enrol. This means you could become a midwife having studied any undergraduate degree, but you'll need to supplement this with a demonstrated passion for working in the sector and plenty of prior practical experience.
However, it's more common for postgraduate midwifery applications to state a relevant degree as a minimum entry requirement, with the majority accepting applications only from NMC-registered nurses and midwives.
Many midwives who are already qualified and in full-time employment enrol on MSc midwifery courses to take part in clinical research or keep up to date with their constantly changing work environment.